History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1941-1951 - Vol. 4

By Noreen Branson | Go to book overview

5
THE PARTY AND THE
ARMED FORCES

In 1941, most of the party members in the armed services were stationed in Britain. But during 1942 many of them were posted to the Middle East, and participated in the offensive against Rommel’s army in north Africa, and in the invasion of Italy in 1943. Others were sent to India from where the attack on the Japanese in Burma was launched. Others did not leave Britain until the Normandy landings in June 1944.

From the start it was understood by most members that when called up, they must not take with them their party cards. This practice was intended to safeguard them against being charged with an offence against the King’s Regulation 541 which laid down that soldiers were not permitted to play an active part in the affairs of a political party. Similar rules applied to the Air Force; those covering the Navy were rather different.1

However, after the Russians entered the war, increasing numbers of men who had not been in the party before call-up began applying to join it. Most were told that they could not do so. That indeed was the experience of Wolfe Wayne who, together with a group of friends serving with him in the Army, wrote to 16 King Street in the Spring of 1942 asking to join the party. In reply, he got a letter from Harry Pollitt telling him he could not be enrolled as a member. Wolfe Wayne was one of those who joined the party as soon as the war was over, and served as one of its full-time organisers before going on to become a polytechnic lecturer.

Some of those who were already in the party before call-up objected to this rule. Sam Fisher, a teacher in civilian life, when stationed near St Albans, travelled to London and complained to Bob Stewart, who was working at King Street, that he had recruited several new members and had then been told they could not be issued with party cards. The

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